A Wisconsin grand jury has indicted barred broker Robert C. Starnes on two counts of wire fraud relating to his alleged scheme to use client investments for personal use.

The two counts of wire fraud totaled $72,000, according to the indictment earlier this month, returned in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release, a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

From November 2019 through May 2023, Starnes, owner of Robert C. Starnes Financial Services in Wauwatosa, Wis., allegedly persuaded clients to give him assets to invest on their behalf but instead deposited the money into a personal bank account at Wells Fargo Bank, the indictment said.

Starnes would then allegedly transfer the money to another personal account at BMO Harris Bank and from there use the assets for personal expenses, including payments on his own credit cards.

To keep his clients in the dark about his scheme, Starnes fabricated statements to show that the victim’s investments had generated returns, the indictment said, and he included logos of legitimate investment companies like Barclays. If a client requested a withdrawal from their “account,” Starnes would transmit the funds via Automated Clearing House wire transfers from his personal account.

At the same time that Starnes operated the firm in his own name, he also was a registered representative with SA Stone Wealth Management, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

In a Finra letter of acceptance, waiver and consent dated July 2023, Starnes agreed to a permanent bar from the industry after SA Stone Wealth terminated him for violating the firm’s policy on the acceptance of client funds and he then refused to appear for testimony when Finra investigated.

According to BrokerCheck, Starnes started his career in 1986 at Equable Securities, then held positions at five other firms before joining SA Stone Wealth in Wauwatosa in 2019.

Starnes had four disclosures on his record. On May 2, 2023, a customer complained that Starnes said he would repay $153,689 after he had accepted and deposited a check in that amount to his personal account. On May 16, he was terminated from SA Stone Wealth for that complaint.

The bar by Finra was logged on July 27, 2023. And on Aug. 31 another customer alleged in a complaint that she had invested $35,000 with Starnes in 2021 and 2022, but when she asked that the investments be liquidated and the money returned to her, they were not. When she called the companies listed on her statements, she was told they did not have an account for her, BrokerCheck said.